Italy’s most famous national park merges quality hikes with tasty pizza and decadent wines.
In This Italy Travel Article You Will Discover:
Advice for Hiking in Cinque Terre
The Beauty of the National Park
Pitfalls to Avoid
I was pronouncing Cinque Terre incorrectly for a long time before someone turned me around.
It was so bad that when someone asked me if I would be visiting “chin’kway tar’ay,” I shook my head no.
I will be going to Sink Tare, though!
Learning some basic Italian is sound advice before heading to Italy. The language gap between English speakers and Italians is often huge. It pays dividends to try, even if you butcher it.
I’m a hiker. And I knew on this particular trip, we’d be spending most of our time in cafes, browsing city streets and at my sister-in-law’s wedding, of course.
But it overlapped my birthday. On your birthday, you get what you want. And I wanted to hike town-to-town in Cinque Terre.
Well, we were hit with some disappointment right off the bat. The famous Lover’s Lane pathway from Riomaggiore to Manarola was closed. (I heard through the grapevine it’s open now.)
So we day-tripped those two towns, then on my b-day, hopped a train to Monterosso al Mare and started hiking southeast for as long as daylight allowed.
Riomaggiore is popular for good reason. It’s likely what you picture when you think of Cinque Terre. This view from the waterfront is classic Italy. Just behind the red building, you see people hiking towards Lover’s Lane. They, like us, were disappointed that day. But it’s open now.
Up in the hills you’ll find the more challenging and uber-scenic High Path (Trail #1) of Cinque Terre. When I return—and I will—I’ll likely challenge those routes. For this trip, I wanted to hike the classic seaside trail to take in those iconic views. (Riomaggiore pictured.)
Picking a favourite town in Cinque Terre is like picking a favourite Italian wine. You can narrow it down to two, at best. But if I had to choose, Manarola might be it.
We rode a train from Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare (pictured) with the goal of hiking back through as many towns as we could. It’s actually only 11 kilometres end-to-end—easily done in a day, even with the steep climbs out of each town. The problem lies in that when you arrive in these charming villages, you dawdle… and happily burn daylight.
The view back towards Monterosso—immediately classic Cinque Terre. This is why we chose the seaside route—a.k.a. the “Blue Path,” or Trail 2. Once again, the grapevine (not the ones pictured here, the metaphorical grapevine) is saying some sections of this trail are closed, even though Lover’s Lane is open. Hey—it’s tough maintaining a 1,000-year-old pathway.
It’s not wilderness. Far from it. But it still offers some wonderful views of the Mediterranean coastline; replete with lemon trees, vineyards, ancient stone paths and moody vistas.
Descending into Vernazza—another classic view lies right around this corner. En route, you’ll pass funky little houses that seem like they’re about to crumble into the Mediterranean, random accordion-playing buskers, a cat sanctuary and lemon trees just begging to be picked (but don’t, they’re not yours).
It’s steep, at times. And it kind of lulls you, as it’s so developed and well-travelled. But a rolled-ankle or tumble in sections like this would be a disaster. It’s wise to take it slow. (Wondering where our supplies are? They’re on my back. Yeah… I guess being the birthday boy isn’t all roses.)
That’s the view—we snapped about 10 photos here. Wait long enough and a fellow hiker will stop by. You can trade photo-for-photo to get a pic of you and your travelling companion. It makes the ideal humblebraggy desktop picture.
The stone walls of Corniglia await. Unlike the rest of the towns, Corniglia is set high above the water—almost like a fortress. It has a distinct look and feel. While towns like Manarola and Riomaggiore are like twinsies, Corniglia is unmistakable. It was my wife’s favourite. Not mine. I like the seaside.
Looking southeast from Corniglia. This was as far as we got that day. Too long a lunch in Vernazza. Too much window-shopping in Monterosso. And by Corniglia, we were just too tired. (OK, maybe the wine and gelato had something to do with it.) We hoped the train was just around the corner, but it was a staggering 300 steps down from town. Knees, don’t fail me now… Needless to say, the 200 stone-steps at our hotel lost their novelty that day.
Benefit to all this climbing? Eat as much pasta as you like.
Petra has captured the world’s imagination for centuries—and it more than lives up to the hype.
In This Petra Photo Essay You Will Discover:
Tips for visiting this Wonder of the World
Little-Known facts about Petra
The best way to hike it
Shortly before my 11thbirthday, I watched the movie Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade. It remains my favourite of the franchise—but one scene stuck out above the others.
The part where the guy gets run over by the tank.
Oh, and also the first look at the home of the Holy Grail—a place I’d find out was actually real, some 10 years later in a university art history class, located in Jordan and called “Petra.” (Or more specifically, “the Treasury” in Petra.)
I was in awe that my professor had actually visited this 2,000-year-old wonder. At the time, I thought a second-hand description would be as close as I’d come to the famous Treasury, the seminal structure in that ancient city.
Leap forward in time a couple more decades and I’m standing at the foot of the Treasury in simple awe.
And this was after hiking through the backdoor. My first glimpse of Petra was the Monastery, every bit as impressive as the Treasury, then followed by a previously unknown-to-me menagerie of ruins expanding through 200 square-kilometres of desert environ.
Beyond the more famous structures, Petra hides a ruin around every corner. You actually tread across ancient stepstones and broken earthenware. The access to many of these ancient wonders is unparelled—I was able to step inside and get hands-on with tucked away tombs and shrines.
I’ll be writing in-depth about my hike through Petra in the Winter issue print of explore magazine. Until then, check out these images of this wonder… as well as four things that I didn’t expect about my visit to Petra:
It’s huge. As mentioned, the area covers some 200 square-kilometres. You can get a quickie overview in a day of steady hiking, but for a more comprehensive look, spend two days. A full exploration will take four to five sweaty days.
While entrance to the Treasury and the Monastery is forbidden (except under rare ciscumstances), the access to many of the ruins is extraordinary. They’re not hidden behind velvet ropes—they’re part of the environment, open for up close exploration.
You won’t go hungry or thirsty. For better or for worse, Petra features a series of concession stands, coffee shacks, souvenir hawkers and even a full-service restaurant.
Go backwards. A tip more than a surprise, we hiked in the “backdoor,” which requires advance purchase of your pass and a guided shuttle—but offers early access to the Monastery as well as a stunning canyon hike into the park.
Let’s explore Petra in pictures, starting from the Backdoor and walking through:
Scenes from the film “The Martian” were shot in this area. Easy to see why.
Hiking in via the “backdoor.” A must, in my opinion.
Our intrepid guide, Khalid, showed us the “secret” way into Petra.
First glimpse—the incredible Monastery. Wow.
Beyond the ruins, the red rock canyons were also stunning.
A hidden gem everywhere you look…
It’s a long, hot hike. But so worth it.
Access is practically unbounded—like the Lions Triclinium. You can go right in!
In the centre of Petra, we uncover the Qasr al-Bint.
The Theatre, one of many impressive ruins.
Imagine life here 2,000 years ago? Incredibly advanced for the time.
Walking through the Street of Facades.
Tired? Donkeys and camels are for-hire.
The Treasury. When you hike in the backdoor, you save the best for last.
Ever been underwhelmed by a famous landmark? No worries of that happening here.
Bonus: Nearby Little Petra is also worth a visit—but go before you visit the Big Brother. Save the best for last.
Your definitive guide to ski and snowboard etiquette.
In This Ski/Snowboard Article You Will Discover:
Chairlift Do’s & Don’ts (mostly the latter)
Lodge life tips
How to be a better human
I just returned from another awesome day at Whistler Blackcomb. And while spring has not quite officially sprung, it was above-zero and sunny all day, reminding me that season’s end is just a couple months off. All good things…
No. Not all good things. Permit me a rant.
I don’t care if you ski in jeans. I don’t care if you snowplow for years. I don’t care if you have multiple yard-sale bails. In fact, I like watching people wipe out (as long as they stand up afterwards) and I can laugh at myself, too.
(Don’t judge, there’s a reason Jerry of the Day has 1.4 million followers and counting.)
But I do care about the following 10 Deadly Sins of the Slopes. Let’s turf them for the 2018/19 season, OK?
My SlopesideShit List, in no particular order of severity:
1. Singles Line Cheaters
I might get some pushback on this, but I stand firm—if you’re skiing or riding with a group, stay out of the singles line. I don’t want to see three friends scoot into the singles line to get past the crowds, yakking it up the whole time then filing one-by-one into open seats. Some of us ski solo. That’s what a singles line is for.
2. Beer Cans Below
I could better understand the mindset of a goddamn Trump voter than I could the person who travels into our beautiful alpine only to pitch crushed beer cans off the chairlift. Areas with night-skiing are particularly nasty. Yes—all litter is bad. But a Clif bar wrapper could be simply negligent. A crushed beer can is always purposeful.
3. Chairlift Chuffers
Despite the fact that most, if not all, ski resorts in Canada have banned cigarette smoking on chairlifts, I still come across the occasional jackass who lights up while giving me a sly “you don’t mind, do you?” look. Yeah. I do. I minded when I was 10 and it was legal and I mind even more now. I didn’t escape the city to breathe your toxic fumes.
4. Smartphone DJs
People who play music sans earphones should have their friggen passes revoked. No one cares about your mash-ups, dude! Literally every music player since the days of transistor radios has had an earphone jack. (Some newfangled ones don’t even need wires!) Use it.
5. End-of-Day Decapitators
Carrying your skis on your shoulder just makes good sense. But realize the tails—the parts you can’t see—are sticking out as much as a metre behind your noggin. So when you stop in the middle of a crowd and swing suddenly around, you risk lopping my head off with those freshly sharpened edges. Move with purpose, folks!
6. Green-Run Racers
It had been a while since I spent real time on a beginner run, but in recent years as I taught my wife the ol’ pizza/french fries, I found myself hanging out on the flats. And I cannot believe how many people I see skimming through ski schools and buzzing beginners. Newsflash—if you can straight-line a green it might be time to move to a blue. I get that greens often traverse from lift-to-lift. But it’s like a “School Zone” on the road. Slow the eff down. You’re scaring the noobs.
7. Powder Pushers
Maybe you got in over your head. Maybe you lack technique. But when you cruise into an untracked, billowy run of powder and side-slip all the fluffy stuff away in a desperate attempt to get down upright, you ruin it for everyone else. Point ‘em—or stay on the groomers.
8. Tail Gunners
I don’t expect to keep my skis pristine. But I’d like most of the damage to be my fault, OK? So when I’m pushing into the chairlift line and you go skimming over my tails (likely with one hand on your iPhone), it pisses me off. Pretty sure I’m not alone here.
9. Mid-Run Relaxers
Ever notice how ski runs tend to undulate? They descend the mountain usually not in one constant slope, but in a succession of lips and ledges with descents in between. You’ll recognize those lips and ledges by the ubiquitous orange “slow” sign atop. Or, you know, by their flatness. They are good spots to rest and enjoy the view. The slopes in between are where you should sit only if you fancy being impaled by my Elans.
10. Lodge Hogs
I know your matching goggles, helmet and gloves are pretty sweet. But not so sweet they need a seat to themselves at the lodge, right?
Most of the time was spent in Arrowhead and Silent Lake. Algonquin was a bit of a bust, as the ski trails were closed on the one day I had to visit. Still gorgeous though—I would love to return. (And I saw wild turkeys!)
The trip was awesome. Some much needed peace-and-quiet, plus a lot of material for Explore’s Winter issue (and online at explore-mag.com)
Here is a teaser. Images from a week in winter—real winter.
This image from my first night at Arrowhead Provincial Park reminded me of a Tom Thomson painting. Fitting, for Ontario.
Perfect conditions for a ski, if you ask me. (Arrowhead.)
My cabin in the snow, Arrowhead Provincial Park.
Arrowhead has a gorgeous ice-skating trail through the woods—plus this picturesque warm-up area.
At first I thought this image didn’t turn out. But I actually really like the shadows and textures. (Arrowhead.)
It was -15 and snowing. This was a welcome sight on the cross-country ski trails of Arrowhead PP.
Stubbs Falls, in Arrowhead PP—a must see. Neat to see it raging, even at sub-zero temperatures.
Fresh snow. A cozy cabin. Perfect. (Arrowhead.)
Bonnie’s Pond Snowshoe Trail is must-visit in Silent Lake Provincial Park. Even though the light snowpack meant I didn’t need snowshoes!
I love this image—wind gusts were coming on and off through the woods. I snapped this one during a heavy gust… looks like I could get lost out there… (Silent Lake.)
Hands down, the best viewpoint on Bonnie’s Pond Snowshoe Trail. (Silent Lake.)
Serenity level +100! (Silent Lake.)
Honestly, I’m always a little nervous walking on frozen lakes. Even when I know it’s safe. (Silent Lake.)
Crisp and cold. (Really cold—like -20.) Silent Lake Provincial Park at night.
Looking back, 2017 had some amazing travel moments. And a couple epiphanies, too.
In This 2017 Retrospective You Will Discover:
Top Travel Moments
New Plans & Destinations
A New Style of Travel
It’s fair to say 2017 was a weird year. For not just me, but the planet at-large. The news cycle was often simply surreal. And personally, it was challenging in many ways.
If you’re hoping for the gossip on that last point, well, this is a travel blog—not a confessional. So too bad.
The year also brought with it some vital travel epiphanies. Over the past few years, I’ve been travelling at a frenetic pace. I’m no digital nomad, but certainly a dozen or more weeklong-plus trips per year hasn’t been uncommon.
I’m slowing it down. I’m taking my time. Being choosy. Looking for meaningful experiences and engaging stories.
How much am I slowing things down? Well, I’ve started using a Polaroid!
Yeah, I’m that guy now.
I’ll be telling my friends: “If you’d like to see the real photos from our life… well, they’re not on Instagram. Come over. Have a beer. I’ll show you them in person.”
Professionally, it also means a few other things:
Travelling less. Yup, you have a travel writer saying he’s going to do “less.” Maybe 2018 will be a weird year too?
But in that sense, travelling bigger. And with more purpose.
Skipping media FAM tours. If you’re not in the biz, you may not know what I mean… but for fellow travel writers, it’ll be rare to see me joining a group FAM tour in 2018 and beyond. Why? I’m just not finding the stories I look for. They’re a distraction. A make-work project.
Looking for deeper stories. More adventure. And real adventure.
Email. Yes, I’m focusing on email storytelling. It’s not as sexy as Instagram, but done right, it can forge deeper connections. Check it.
(OK, so this is a bit of a confessional.)
I have big plans in the mix for 2018 already. They include winter camping in Ontario, a trip to the UK, a self-supported backcountry trek on the West Coast, cat-skiing in Central BC.. Plus… well, keep posted. (Maybe Central Asia too.)
I’m also going to spend more time exploring my home province. This is what I grew up doing. When I caught the international travel bug in my 20s, I’ve admittedly done far too little of it. You’ll already notice this trend in my 2017 lookback.
I truly love exploring British Columbia on my motorcycle. Camping on the beach. Canoeing inland lakes. I don’t need to hop a plane to South America to go on a trek. I have the West Coast Trail right here.
And, at the risk of sounding preachy—I’ve been giving a lot more thought to my carbon footprint. I can ride my bicycle, recycle, use LED lights, eat locally—but then I hop into a jetplane and gallivant across the continent for a trip I’m halfway interested in and it all goes out the window.
I think we all need to consider this more.
Plus, my wife and I got a puppy in November. So travel will be on fewer planes, more road trips. Which I’m stoked about.
For now, let’s take a look at my most memorable moments from 2017. And think about your own, too.
Happy New Year, friends.
I’d never spent as much time exploring Squamish, British Columbia as I did on a weekend in February. It’s long been one of my favourite places to hike and swim—so I decided to delve deeper and write an article about the town itself for the Spring 2017 British Columbia Magazine. Turns out there is some great food, quality beer and unique accommodations to complement the recreation. Fun times! ( I would have even had the chance to fly a stunt plane, if the snow hadn’t piled up.)
I had never skied Sun Peaks Resort. Located north of Kamloops, BC, it’s quietly the second-largest ski hill in Canada. My wife and I had two awesome days of skiing—but the dogsledding really stands out. I wrote about it in the Winter 2017 issue of British Columbia Magazine, and online at explore-mag.com. I love a ski-in village like Sun Peaks. It makes the trip special. Heck, I live a 30-minute drive from three mountains. I’m not going to drive to the slopes on my travels, too.
Park City in March! More new slopes, this time south of the border. I’d heard about how dry and awesome Utah powder is, but I always thought it just typical ski resort bravado. Turns out there is real science behind it. And the skiing was epic! I loved Park City Mountain. Deer Valley was nice too, but the town’s signature behemoth is a true must-ski for any powder hound. I wrote about it in the Winter 2017 print issue of explore as well as online at explore-mag.com. They are two very different articles. The print issue was very tongue-in-cheek. I thought it was funny, anyway.
Moving day—April 30. A form of travel, anyway. After six years in our apartment, we moved into a townhouse and had to get used to this view. (Which was pretty easy.) It also meant discovering a new neighbourhood in Vancouver, which has been fun. (#YVR: have you heard of Trans Am cocktail bar? Me neither, before I moved to #PortTown!)
A powerful memory from 2017 came in June. I went on a hike-in camping trip with the Union Gospel Mission to interview some graduates from their “Expeditions” program. Expeditions uses outdoor adventure as therapy to further participants’ recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. Chatting with Tom and Jonas was fascinating. I’m writing about the trip and the program in the Spring 2018 issue of explore.
Keeping with my mission to explore my home province more, I headed into BC’s dry Cariboo to visit Echo Valley Ranch & Spa in late-June. I’ll fully admit I was expecting to write a bit of a fluff piece on a luxury spa. What I found was a unique cultural crossroads and a meaty story. The above photo was taken when ranch co-owner Norm Dove took me for a spin in his Cesna on the final day. That’s BC’s Fraser Canyon—from evergreens to near-desert in just a few kilometres! I wrote about this experience in the Fall 2017 issue of British Columbia Magazine.
This image represents some serious travel plans in the making. After years of daydreaming about buying a Catalina 27 and sailing the West Coast of BC, I finally took a tangible step: sailing lessons. This is day one, in early July, when we learned the basics in an boat meant for kids. I’ve actually only been sailing once since completing the program, but 2018 is going to bring more time under the mast. Keep posted for some epic sailing trips in the years to come.
Tree Island… a.k.a. Sandy Island Marine Provincial Park… now properly known as Jáji7em and Kw’uhl Marine Park… was my stomping grounds as a kid. Some of my most treasured memories are of swimming, exploring and picnicking on its sunny shores. I hadn’t been since I was a teenager—which is, frankly, a crying shame. I spend a July day here, with family and friends. It’s a short boat ride from my family’s property on Vancouver Island, which is another 2018 resolution—spend more time in Deep Bay.
When I said I’d be looking for bigger and deeper stories, I meant it. Late July and early August saw me travelling to Nunavut to board a One Ocean Expeditions trip into the High Arctic. For two weeks we sailed north along the coast of Baffin Island and beyond to Devon and Cornwallis islands. Polar bears. Narwhals. Inuit culture. Walruses. Franklin graves. It was a trip to remember. We topped out beyond 74 degrees north. I love Canada’s Arctic. I feel a strong connection to the landscape up there. I’ll return again and again. I wrote about this trip in the Winter 2017 issue of explore—a meaty eight-page feature.
If you thought I’d spend all year in Canada, you don’t know me well. Late September and Early October saw my wife and I travelling to the Italian Riviera. Our reason was a family wedding—which was breathtaking—then we tacked on an additional 10 days to roam. We rented a Fiat in Milan, cruised to the coast to explore Zoagli, Portofino, Rapallo and Santa Margherita Ligure. Next stop: Cinque Terre (Vernazza, pictured) for some town-to-town hiking, before driving back to spend three days in Milan. And I haven’t written word about it, until now. I told you 2017 was weird! Look for some Italian road tripping tips to come in 2018.
Meet Chesterman. Named for a beach in Tofino, BC, he’s ushered some big changes for such a small guy. However, I haven’t slowed things down because of this puppy. The puppy is a part of the slow-down. Looking forward to our first camping trip next year.
I will close out the year in Tofino, surrounded by family. The above is a bit of a fabricated memory, as this photo was taken in 2016. You see, I’m in Tofino right now. Doing this. Perhaps exactly here. Although my wife is probably holding a dog leash, not a surfboard. (We can take turns.) Bring it on, 2018.
A family trip is a great experience if everything is planned correctly. Getting all the details squared away before you head out is the difference between a trip you’ll never forget and one that you wish you could forget.
Every trip has three major parts: What you’re doing, where you’ll stay, and how you’ll get there. Each area needs to be figured out in advance to make sure you have the best chance at a successful trip, and the less of each one that you must build from the ground up, the easier it is to have a worry-free trip.
Of course, many people buy complete vacation packages like cruises that simply require you to pay up, show up, and load up. But many of us prefer some more independence with the itinerary that lets us choose some of the details ourselves. Popular stops like Williamsburg and Branson have countless smaller attractions that give you a lot of latitude on your schedule.
At the same time, we don’t want to just pull into town and start wandering around looking for fun. That’s why most of us choose some type of established vacation spot.
So let’s start our conversation on a custom-built vacation by examining your destination. Cities all around the US like Palm Springs, and San Diego, along with Cabo San Lucas and others just across the border, are loaded with activities for your family to do. No matter what you want to do together, your family can find it in one of these popular areas.
Now that we have you thinking destinations, we need to talk about lodging. This can be overwhelming because even small vacation towns can have an incredible number of hotels, chalets, cabins, inns, bed and breakfasts, and other places to stay. The best thing to do is to get some consistency. Figure out a way to stay with the same company wherever you go. This is particularly easy with a timeshare, as you can see on welkresorts.com. The Welk family of resorts gives you consistent quality, convenient booking, and easy access to the most popular destinations.
So how are you going to get there? We all have a lot of decisions to make here. Much of the choice is driven by how much local mobility you’ll need. If you just plan to relax at the resort and enjoy the amenities on-site, air travel is perfect. You fly in, get a taxi to the resort, and reverse the process at trip’s end.
But if you’re thinking about traveling in the local area, you’ll either need to rent a car or simply drive your own. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. If you’re coming from very far away, driving can waste a lot of your time. And if your car breaks down, you may not have as many options as you would with a rental company.
If the trip is closer to home, air travel may be wasteful. You might have to drive an hour or two to a larger airport, go through security, have a layover, make a connection, and only end up saving an hour or two of travel time—and still need a rental. Anything within two or three hundred miles of home is an easy choice to drive.
Sometimes getting there is part of the fun. For travelers who fight city traffic day in and day out without ever driving the open road, it might be nice to cross the Rockies or see the Mississippi Delta. Driving your own car lets you stop in at the roadside diners and quirky tourist stops, but you can also travel by train and make better time without sacrificing the view.
Vacations are a fiercely individual thing for people. What sounds like fun to one family can sound boring to another. The more freedom you give yourself to do what you want to do, the better the chance you’ll have a great trip.
Located north of 70 degrees on the edge of Baffin Island, Pond Inlet is one of Canada’s most interesting, culturally rich and welcoming communities.
In This Arctic Travel Article You Will Discover:
Life in the High Arctic
Images of Pond Inlet
Inuit Culture & Traditions
Icebergs & More
Pond Inlet. Have you been? LOL Of course you haven’t. But don’t feel bad—few have.
Set on the northeast coast of Baffin Island, on the shores of Eclipse Sound and looking towards Bylot Island, Pond Inlet is remote. At 72 degrees north, it’s well beyond the Arctic Circle. About 1,600 people call the hamlet home, mostly Inuit. As such, it’s a culturally rich and unique community worthy of visit.
It’s also the jumping off point to Sirmilik National Park, one of the wilderness gems of Canada’s national park system. For the adventurous backcountry traveller, Sirmilik is a Holy Grail.
What’s life like in Pond Inlet? Well, for starters, the average daily high temperature in July is 10.5 degrees Celsius. In February, the average daily high is -30.
(The record low, with wind chill, was almost -70.)
Summer brings 24 hours of daylight; winter, 24 hours of darkness.
And the people are friendly. In fact, “friendly people” is their town slogan.
So friendly, when I stopped by for a visit last summer, they proudly spent hours showing us around—finishing with a breathtaking cultural demonstration.
See for yourself:
Ice speckled the still waters of Eclipse Sound as we approached Pond Inlet. (Bylot Island, pictured.)
An oasis on the tundra of Baffin Island—Pond Inlet. Pretty decent cellphone service up there, actually.
And they really were…
Our ship, the MV Sergey Vavilov, moored offshore of Pond Inlet.
Qamutiqs—traditionally towed by dogs, today by snowmobiles—are used throughout winter. In summer, they sit idle.
The thick permafrost makes paving roads nearly impossible.
Rosie donned a sealskin anorak and mukluks to show us around town.
This was once the community freezer—kept sub-zero year-round due to permafrost. Due to warming temperatures, it’s no longer safe to enter or use.
Everyone we met was thrilled we had come to see their town. (And the locals were heading out to hunt narwhal when we arrived.)
This was the original airport building. How would you like waiting for a flight in that at -30?
Across Eclipse Sound, Bylot Island resembles a chunk of the Rocky Mountains dropped in the High Arctic.
Downtown Pond Inlet.
Inuktitut is an extremely challenging language for non-Inuit.
Arctic Games on display. We had two Olympians with us, and neither could come close to doing this.
Pure love and celebration; Nunavut’s official song.
Oh that view.
Home to the world’s most northerly Tim Horton’s!
Pond Inlet beach. Care to go for a swim? It’s August and the water is a balmy three degrees Celsius.
A supply ship passes through Eclipse Sound on its yearly tour of the Nunavut Archipelago.
Travel with me to Turtle Islands National Park, in Malaysian Borneo—and discover how you can help save the world’s sea turtles.
In This Malaysia Travel Article You Will Discover
A Remote Nature Preserve of the Coast of Borneo
The Plight of the World’s Sea Turtles
How You Can Visit & Help
The world’s sea turtles are in danger. Let’s help.
Forty-two kilometres offshore of Sandakan, on the northeastern shore of Malaysian Borneo—and five kilometres from Filipino waters—our group arrives via speedboat to Selingaan Island, the administrative centre of Turtle Islands National Park. This vital island preserve is dedicated to fostering healthy populations of green and hawksbill turtles by stewarding the eggs and releasing the hatchlings. Climate change, pollution and poaching all threaten these creatures in the South China Sea. And for tourists to Malaysian Borneo, Turtle Islands offers an experience that’s one-part beach bum paradise, one part hands-On conservation effort.
Bisected by the equator and situated between mainland Southeast Asia and the Philippines, Borneo is a region of fascination unrivalled. Home to the highest mountain in Southeast Asia—a popular overnight trek—as well as dense jungles harbouring proboscis monkeys, orang-utans and pygmy elephants, tourism to the world’s third-largest island has, of late, become it’s second-largest industry. And many operators are attempting to do tourism right—hence our overnight trip to Malaysian Borneo’s Turtle Islands National Park, where we’ll be treated to a day at the beach and a night helping to conserve one of the Pacific’s keystone species.
But first things first—Selingaan Island, marked by a sign at 6 degrees 10’ north, 118 degrees 04’ east, is paradise. It is a minuscule, eight-hectare island of soft white sand, swaying coconut trees and creepy monitor lizards that skulk out from beneath the beach huts oblivious and uncaring to your presence. Anticipating a late night awaiting the return of the egg-laying turtles, we laze about on the beach, swimming in the tepid Sulu Sea, until sundown.
Momma turtle lays her eggs. No flash photography allowed!
At night, entertainment comes in the form of the Waiting Game. Turtles will return to the sands of this island to lay eggs tonight, but no one knows when. After dinner, there’s not much to do—8:00 p.m. comes and goes. By 9:00 p.m., I’m a bit tired; 10:00 p.m. sees me dozing at the dinner table. It’s off limits to venture onto the beach after sunset—here, turtles come first, tourists second. At 10:30, though, it’s officially turtle time—I’m roused from my slumber and we rush out to the shores where earlier we’d swum to find a metre-long green turtle laying a clutch of eggs into a sand pit. With no radio tag, it’s clear she’s a newcomer to Selingaan. She proceeds to lays 66 eggs; we watch in amazement of this circle of life. The parks staff tags her; an act she protests to with a few kicks of her fins. So little is known about turtle life cycle once they leave the islands, and these radio tags provide vital clues.
But the experience is only one-third done. Next up is to bury these new eggs in the rookery, protecting them from the greedy monitor lizards or regional egg poachers. And finally, with a tub of 45 green turtle hatchlings to set free, we wander back to the shoreline to complete the night’s task.
It’s a tough life to be sea turtle. We tip the tub over at the lapping shoreline and help guide these scrambling reptiles to the vast Pacific. The reason turtles lay so many eggs is to overwhelm predators with hatchlings. Most will be immediately picked off, and only the chosen few make it to out sea. And then they vanish for up to 10 years — known as the “lost years.” Eventually, some will return to these shores. Others will fall victim to pollution and hunting.
Newly hatched sea turtles venture into the unknown…
Yes, these ancient reptiles survived the Cretaceous crash, but they may not survive us. But the hard-working conservationists at Turtle Islands Park — and, from time to time, some enthusiastic travellers — strive to ensure they don’t go the way of the dinosaur just yet.